Over The Boundary



Kevin O Brien's century for Ireland against England in the 2011 World Cup was the fastest of all time. Irish cricket fans had waited at least a hundred years to celebrate such a victory.

Before the game there had been precious few victories, but also precious few supporters and players to celebrate them. But after the match cricket fans in Ireland slowly started a whispering chorus of texts, tweets and emails, as the enormity of their team's achievement spread from the few who understood, to the masses who didn't.

On the state broadcaster RTE's main tea time show, their chief political correspondent finished a very serious report about the ongoing coalition talks and suddenly broke into an impassioned monologue to listeners:

'I don't know if you remember the Norwegian commentator the night when Norway beat England? He started shouting 'are you listening Maggie Thatcher?'. Well -.are you listening Geoffrey Boycott? Are you listening Mick Jagger? Are you listening Oliver Cromwell? Our boys just thrashed you at cricket!'

It was an extraordinary moment. Cricket had crashed into the national consciousness.

Ireland may have the third oldest cricket club in the world - Phoenix cricket club in Dublin - but in the centuries since it was established, there have been concerted efforts to ban it and relegate it to the bottom of Ireland's sporting fixtures. Viewed as unpatriotic and a colonial imposition, the GAA - the national sporting association - banned its members from playing or watching 'foreign sports'. Playing cricket became a political decision.

In Over the Boundary, Kevin Connolly tells the story of how cricket batted its way into Ireland's sporting arena.

Producer: Rachel Hooper

A Falling Tree Production for BBC Radio 4.